Friday, September 13, 2013

Forget hi-tech trainers, stick to plain plimsolls parents told

Parents whose children demand the latest Nike or Adidas trainers may be better off buying old-fashioned plimsolls because they encourage a healthier style of running, researchers claim.

But adults have been warned not to cast aside their hi-tech trainers as their bones are unable to adjust to the sudden increase in impact.

Human feet are designed to land on the front part of the foot when running, but modern trainers with cushioned heels make it virtually impossible to do so.

Instead they force us to land on the heel, which causes a sharper shock than landing on the front foot and puts more strain on joints like the knee.

Once we have grown used to running in trainers it is extremely difficult to alter our technique, even if we change or remove our shoes, and can even raise the risk of injury.

Children should be encouraged to wear shoes with thin, flexible soles such as plimsolls from a young age to help them develop a natural "barefoot" running style, experts said.

Dr Mick Wilkinson, a sports scientist at Northumbria University, told an audience at the British Science Festival in Newcastle: "I would say [to parents] don't go and buy expensive Adidas or Nike big cushioned jobs, just get them a normal plair of flexible, flat shoes.

"Give them basic footwear. Nothing structured, nothing particularly cushioned...there is a lot of evidence to suggest that the human foot is structured to be able to cope with the forces of running on the midfoot or barefoot.

"I think if somebody is going to learn to run from the very first principles, let them learn to run using their natural equipment as much as possible."

Barefoot running has become increasingly popular in America, and is moving to the UK, because studies have shown that we are built to run long distances, absorbing the impact on the front foot.

One in five runners develops injuries linked to landing on their heels, such as stress fractures in their feet and legs, and injury rates have not improved since the 1970s despite new technology being incorporated into shoes, Dr Wilkinson said.

"There's been a suggestion that barefoot running, or particularly the way that barefoot runners run - the technique they adopt - could alter some of the impact forces such that injury risk might be reduced," he said.

But there is no evidence linking barefoot running to reduced injury rates, and shedding your shoes could even raise the risk of harm unless you adopt a change in technique, he added.

"If you do it correctly, there could be some benefits. But people need to realise that barefoot running is a skill, it's a particular way of running associated with a particular style and that style for most people needs to be learned," he said.


Health myth of the juicing craze

It is a trend driven by celebrities and the perceived health benefits of making drinks with entirely natural ingredients. But “juicing” could actually be bad for you, experts have warned.

Drinking smoothies and blended fruit juices can have the unintended consequence of massively increasing the amount of sugar a person consumes, said scientists.

Retailers have reported a boom in the sale of juicers as part of a trend that began in California and grew with the endorsement of celebrities including Gwyneth Paltrow, the actress, and James Cracknell, the Olympic rower.

Juicing, which is different to blending or pulping, extracts the water and nutrients from a fruit or vegetable while discarding the tough fibre which aids the digestive system.

Barry Popkin, a professor at the department of nutrition at the University of North Carolina, and Dr George Bray, an American physician, said people were deceiving themselves about their sugar intake by swapping fizzy drinks for juices and smoothies.

For example, one smoothie from Innocent — “pomegranates, blueberries and acai superfood”— contains 34.3g of sugar in a 250ml bottle, while a 500ml bottle of squeezed orange juice sold at Pret a Manger contains 51g of sugar. This compares with 39g of sugar in a 330ml can of Coke.

Prof Popkin said: “Think of eating one orange or two and getting filled. Now think of drinking a smoothie with six oranges and two hours later it does not affect how much you eat.

“We feel full from drinking beverages like smoothies but it does not affect our overall food intake, whereas eating an orange does. So pulped-up smoothies do nothing good for us but do give us the same amount of sugar as four to six oranges or a large coke. It is deceiving.”

Lakeland, the kitchenware retailer, reported last week that sales of juicers had shot up by 4,000 per cent in a week following a Channel 5 documentary in which a man lost six stone by going on a juice-only diet. John Lewis reported that sales had risen by 2,600 per cent compared with the same period last year.

Will Jones, a buyer of small electricals at John Lewis, said: “Juicing is a huge trend for us this year in response to high levels of customer demand for juicers. Customers have been looking for healthy alternatives to help them stay refreshed in the heat and juicing ticks those boxes.”

Prof Popkin and Prof Bray warned almost 10 years ago that high-fructose corn syrup used to sweeten soft drinks was linked to obesity. Their research was said in part to have led Coca-Cola and PepsiCo to diversify into fruit juices.

In research published as an update, they warn that “smoothies and fruit juice are the new danger”. “To the best of our knowledge every added amount of fructose – be it from fruit juice, sugar-sweetened beverages or any other beverage, or even from foods with high sugar content – adds equally to our health concerns linked with this food component,” they say.

Coca-Cola bought Innocent smoothies while PepsiCo owns Tropicana, which launched a range of smoothies in 2008. “Smoothies are one of the easiest ways to boost daily fruit intake as each 250ml portion contains the equivalent of 2 fruit portions,” it said at the time.

Prof Popkin suggested that the long-term effects of sugar consumption are the same whether it comes from natural sources such as fruit or in the form of artificial sugars added to soft drinks.

Last week research published by the British Medical Association found that nurses, who ate whole fruit, especially blueberries, grapes and apples, were less likely to get type 2 diabetes, while those who drank fruit juice were at increased risk. Those who swapped fruit juice for whole fruits three times a week cut their risk by 7 per cent.

The British Soft Drinks Association said consumption of sugary soft drinks had fallen by 9 per cent over the past 10 years, but at the same time obesity had increased by 15 per cent. “Obesity is a serious and complex problem requiring concerted action by a wide range of organisations as well as by people themselves. Soft drinks companies recognise the role they have to play,” a spokesman added.


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